Tuesday, 29 May 2007

More Crap About Climate Change

Following the U.S. Senate's vote today on a global warming measure (see today's AP article: Senate Defeats Climate Change Measure,) it is an opportune time to examine the recent and quite remarkable momentum shift taking place in climate science. Many former believers in catastrophic man-made global warming have recently reversed themselves and are now climate skeptics. The names included below are just a sampling of the prominent scientists who have spoken out recently to oppose former Vice President Al Gore, the United Nations, and the media driven “consensus” on man-made global warming.

(Source)1

From the website of US Senator Jim Inhofe (Republican - no surprise, Oklahoma).

The article, by one Marc Morano, claims that a consensus is building against anthropogenic global warming. He names thirteen experts who have seen the light and recanted. The list is:

  1. Dr. Claude Allegre
  2. Bruno Wiskel
  3. Dr. Nir Shaviv
  4. Dr. David Evans
  5. Dr. Tad Murty
  6. Dr. David Bellamy
  7. Dr. Chris de Freitas
  8. Dr. Reid Bryson
  9. Hans H.J. Labohm
  10. Tim Patterson
  11. Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski
  12. Dr. Ian D. Clark
  13. Dr. Jan Veizer

The article gives brief summary of the alleged opinions of each of these parties. Reading through the list, alarm bells started ringing when I got to number six, David Bellamy. This prompted me to have a look at some of the others.

A bit of google balsting has shown that the article by Morano is everywhere on the internet, reproduced on denier and conservative websites to much jubilation. It needs to be examined sceptically, because I don't think it is an honest article.

I'll start with the easiest one, the entry which made me suspect the article was crap - DAVID BELLAMY. David Bellamy is a splendid chap, a wonderful TV personality and, for years a great campaigner for the protection of the natural world. He 'came out' as a global warming sceptic in 2004, so his inclusion on this list as a newly converted sceptic is a bit puzzling. Further, Bellamy announced in 2005 that he was going to "draw back from the debate on global warming" (2) when the claims he made were questioned the claims he made were called into question.(3)

I wouldn't count Bellamy as an evil lying bastard, he got it wrong and did the sensible, honourable thing, which is to admit as much and shut up. So he's off the list. It is - shall we say - surprising that he was ever on it, given that the list was compiled in 2007 and Bellamy's departure from the scene was in 2005.

So, with Bellamy gone, that leaves 12 ...

CLAUDE ALLEGRE

The source article describes Allegre as "a top geophysicist and French Socialist" which is presumably meant to show climate scepticism crosses all politcal and national boundaries. Even French socialists and American Republicans can stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue.

Allegre, was 'one of the first scientists to sound global warming fears 20 years ago'(4) but 'now says the cause of climate change is "unknown" and accused the “prophets of doom of global warming” of being motivated by money'(5). Unlike the noble Senator Inhofe, who was only second on the list of senators who had their 2002 elections funded by oil and gas interests.(6)

Allegre also grumbles that "the ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some people" and advises us to be cautious in our assessment of cliamte change. This all in an article in LÉxpress, titled The Snows of Kilimanjaro.(7)

Reading the article, I'm not sure it is the recantation Morano claims it is. Allegre is discussing the changes witnessed on Kilimanjaro, and is stating that these changes are not caused by anthropogenic global warming, but local, non-anthropogenic, climate change:

The gradual retreat of the snows of Kilimanjaro is often imputed to local phenomena, the main one of these being desertification in East Africa. In a recent issue of Science magazine, French researchers have shown that this desertification was in a large measure due to tectonic activities responsible for the gradual uplift of the African continent, thereby inducing a reorganization of atmospheric circulation. Greenhouse effect plays no significant role in these processes. (8)

Which is fair enough. Every cold winter does not prove global warming isn't happening. Every example of local warming doesn't prove it is. Attributing every variation in climate to global warming when the science does not support it is wrong and plays into the hands of the global warming deniers. That is his point.

Further, the Morano article claims Allegre 'now says the cause of climate change is "unknown"'(9), but this is not so based on the Kilimanjaro article. Referring to recent erratic weather patterns in France, Allegre states 'The cause of this climate change is unknown,'(10) which is clearly referring to the specific instances cited, i.e. the infamous heatwave that blighted Europe in 2003 or what he calls the "Rotten summer."(11)

Allegre actually states, as far as I can judge, that he accepts anthropogenic warming is occuring:

But the exposure of man's responsibility as regards global warming allows us to sit idly by (the effect of the measures advocated will be felt only in half a century!). On the other hand, the crusade against extreme theories can be led with tangible results!(12)

Put plainly, Allegre is not, on the strength of this article, denying the existance on anthropogenic global warming. He is, as Morano says, lambasting alarmists, but his definition of an alarmist is probably very different from Morano's.

Incidentally, the Morano article also cites a profile in Canada's National Post as further evidence of Allegre's new-found scepticism. It doesn't offer much new - it cites the same LÉxpress article, though it uses quotation more honestly and describes Allegre's position not so much as that of a a climate change denier (though it is part of a series called The Deniers), but as someone fustrated at the hysteria that has congealed around global warming:

Dr. Allegre especially despairs at "the greenhouse-gas fanatics whose proclamations consist in denouncing man's role on the climate without doing anything about it except organizing conferences and preparing protocols that become dead letters." The world would be better off, Dr. Allegre believes, if these "denouncers" became less political and more practical, by proposing practical solutions to head off the dangers they see, such as developing technologies to sequester C02. (13)

(http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=2f4cc62e-5b0d-4b59-8705-fc28f14da388)

So, unless someone can provide more conclusive evidence of Allegre's recantation, he's off the list. So we're down to 11 ...

BRUNO WISKEL

Morano describes Wiskel as a "Geologist ... of the University of Alberta"(14). It is a cheap shot, but, at the end of the day, is climate change in the late 20th century really part of geology? Unless, of course, climate change is caused by geological factors, which I haven't heard so far.

There isn't much information available online for Wiskel. He did write a book called "The Emperor’s New Climate: Debunking the Myths of Global Warming", but without knowing what is in that book, what can we say? The title is suggestive: "Debunking the Myths of Global Warming" hints that the author isn't denying that global warming is happening. Otherwise, the title would be "Debunking the Myth of Global Warming". Notice the difference? Incidentally, on climate change denier websites, the book is almost always referred to as "The Emperor's New Climate: Debunking the Myth of Global Warming". Sad.

But with little information on Wiskel's stance, all I can say is he seems a really hoopy frood(15), designing energy efficient homes and advising people on how to live a sustainable life style. His criticisms seem to be directed more at the way people are responding to climate change - by trying to balance out their lifestyles, rather than modify them - rather than claiming it isn't happening. For what it is worth, here's what I found on Wiskel and his book. (16)

That's right. One lousy review. Clearly, Wiskel lives by his principles and does not maintain a website. For that, I salute him, whatever his views may be. Like I said, a hoopy frood. But without further verification of his position, he's off the list.

So, that's down to 10 ...

1 - "Climate Momentum Shifting: Prominent Scientists Reverse Belief in Man-made Global Warming - Now Skeptics," by Marc Morano, May 15, 2007. (http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=927b9303-802a-23ad-494b-dccb00b51a12)
2 - "In an adverse climate," letter by David Bellamy to The Times, May 29, 2005 . (
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/article527565.ece)
3 - "Junk science: David Bellamy's inaccurate and selective figures on glacier shrinkage are a boon to climate change deniers," by George Monbiot, May 10th, 2005.
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1480279,00.html)
4 - Morano, Op. Cit.
5 - Morano, Op. Cit.
6 - The Centre for Representative Politics,
http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/recips.asp?Ind=E01&Cycle=2002&recipdetail=A&Mem=N&sortorder=U.
7 - "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," by Claude Allegre, September 21, 2006. Published in L'Express, reproduced here:
http://blog.nam.org/The%20Snows%20of%20Mount%20Kilimanjaro.pdf.
8 - ibid.
9 - Morano, Op. Cit.
10 - Allegre,
Op. Cit.
11 -
Ibid.
12 - Ibid.
13 - "Allegre's second thoughts," by Laurence Solomon, Financial Post', March 02, 2007. (
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=2f4cc62e-5b0d-4b59-8705-fc28f14da388)
14 - Morano, Op. Cit.
15 - A "Hoopy frood" is a term originating in the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by sci-fi writer and
environmentalist Douglas Adams. It translates, from galactic slang into English, as "A really together guy, a really amazingly together guy." (
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=A+really+hoopy+frood)
16 - "This Environmentalist’s View of Climate Change Isn’t What You’d Expect," review of The Emperor's New Climate: Debunking the Myths of Global Warming, published in The Pegg, November 2006. (
http://www.apegga.com/members/publications/peggs/Web11-06/climate_change.html)

C4 to Screen Image of Dying Diana

Channel 4 defends Diana crash photos

Staff and agencies
Monday May 28, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Channel 4 today insisted it will broadcast as planned a programme
about the death of Princess Diana including graphic images of the car crash that
killed her, despite calls for it to be cancelled.

The programme, The Witnesses in the Tunnel, to be shown on June
6, includes a series of pictures of the immediate aftermath of the crash in a
Paris underpass on 31 August 1997, The Observer reported yesterday.

One photograph shows Diana receiving oxygen from a French doctor,
Frederic Mailliez, who had been travelling in the other direction and who had
not yet realised the identity of his patient. It shows that the princess was
thrown forward into the footwell behind the driver's seat. At the front of the
car a passing student is shown trying to help Trevor Rees-Jones, Diana's
bodyguard.

There are other graphic images of the inside of the car, although the face
of the dying Diana is blanked out.

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,,2089780,00.html)

This is absolutely disgusting. I can't believe, ten years after her death, TV programs are still being made about this woman, column inches in newspapers devoted to her and valuable blogspace being filled up with inane ramblings about her.

This is a list of things that are more important than Dianna, 10 years after her death. Please note it is not exhaustive, it is just the first few things off the top of my head.
  1. Climate change
  2. Poverty
  3. Disease
  4. War
  5. Crime
  6. Religious fundamentalism
  7. Corruption
  8. Ignorance
  9. Deforestation & species extinction
  10. The 'chavification' of the culture.

Point is, ten years ago, before Dianna was killed in a car crash, no, not assasinated by MI5, MI6, Mossad or Al Queada, working singly or together to prevent a Muslim ascending to the throne of Britain, when she was killed in a car crash because her driver was blind drunk and she was too thoughtless to put on her seat belt, THE LIST WOULD HAVE BEEN EXACTLY THE SAME.

The only important aspect of this story is that it shows Channel 4 is continuing to find new ways to prove no-one ever lost money under-estimating the taste of the British public. Even within my memory, there was a time when Channel 4 was good - Boys From the Black Stuff, GBH. But somehow, since the mid 90s, it seems to have re-written its mission statement, and now thinks its purpose is to make Channel 5 look good.

I mean, what are we to make of this statement (from later on in the Guardian article):

"Channel 4 today said ... Only one image shows the occupants of the car after
the crash and it has been appropriately obscured to avoid any unwarranted
intrusion into their privacy or that of their families."

WTF? How can they claim that they are avoiding "unwarranted intrusion into their privacy"? We know who the people in the crash are. So their privacy in this case is non-existant. As for 'unwarranted', can Channel 4 please explain what public good is served by this? None, so it is unwarranted.

They might argue they are following their remit to challenge and shock viewers, but, really, if they wanted to there are a million more worthy ways of doing it. If they want to show snuff, why not show some kid dying in Darfur or Eritrea, or the children's ward of an African AIDS hospice - which would be a far more appropriate tribute to dopey Dianna, wh'se sole useful to contribution to public life was to say "Err, AIDS is sad and landmines are bad." Instead, they've gone for the most predictable, easy and obvious way of generating publicity and public attention. It is mailto:F#*@!g depressing and Channel 4 should be shot for it.

'Christian' Malfeasance

First of all, a positional statement. I am not anti-Christian. I'm not a Christian myself, though I was raised one. Nowadays, I style myself an athiest and regad all faiths with bemused tolerance, aslong as they do the same to me and each other. I don't resent the church (I wasn't a Catholic, after all) or feel the need to attack it. I admire many people who are Christians, and admire many major church figures. One of the best things about being a non-Christian is that I can admire the excellent things said and done by people such as the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, an almost painfully decent person, and Bishop John Shelby Spong, even though they don't agree themselves. I'd rather have a conversation with either of those fundamentally decent human beings than with the painfully obnoxious athiest Richard Dawkins.

I'm saying this because I think I'm going to be saying some very unkind things about people who style themselves Christians. I don't want decent, run of the mill Christians to think I am criticising them.

Anyway, to the matter on hand. I came across a story the other day. an American father was unhappy that his daughter was being shown pamphlets attacking Islam, distributed in class by an avowedly Christian organisation trying to warn young minds about the wickedness of the followers of Mohammed:

Teen's Dad Says 'Anti-Muslim' Literature Handed Out in Class Isn't Freedom of
Speech
Friday, February 23, 2007
By Liza Porteus

The father
of a North Carolina ninth grader who was given "anti-Muslim" literature in class says the material handed out is not an issue of free speech, but of slander and defamation.

"First of all, it slanders, things like, Mohammed is a 'criminal,' is 'demon possessed' ... that just made my blood boil," said Triaq Butte, whose daughter, Saira, participated in a ninth grade orientation seminar at Enloe High School in Wake County, N.C., where the material was distributed.

Butte is a non-practicing Muslim; he said his wife is Christian and his children are taught to accept and respect all religions.

"So for a person like me to feel like that — I've never been to a mosque — to feel like that … for me to feel such hideous attacks, they were not just pointing out failures or weaknesses in Islam or Muslims, they were just attacking."

A representative from the Kamil International Ministries Organization, a Christian group based in Raleigh, was invited by a teacher to come and speak to the class. He handed out literature that compared the teachings of Jesus with accusations against the Prophet Muhammad.

(http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,253824,00.html)

First of all, respect to Mr Butte, who had the wherewithal to complain about something that offended him even though it did not affect him directly. "First they came for the communists," and all that.

Second, why does Fox describe him as a 'non-practicing Muslim'? Isn't a non-practicing Muslim, um, not a Muslim? So why identify him as such? It seems pathetically petty, and suggests either they're trying to undermine him (unlikely) or suspect their readers, seeing the Arabic name, will immediately assume he's a fully fired up Jihadist. Which is very sad.

But these are preliminaries. What really bugged me about this was precisely what bugged Mr Butte, namely, the approach taken by the Kamil Institute. As I said earlier, I am tolerant towards all faiths, as long as their followers don't set out to hurt other people or get too loud in their evangelism. The Kamil Institute, however, is not an organisation that promotes Christianity. Its purpose is to denigrate Islam. This, from its website:

Kamil International Ministries Organization is dedicated to teaching the truth about Islam. We love Muslims but we believe that Islam is not a Divine faith, Muhammad was not a prophet from God and the Koran is not the Word of God. Our mission is to raise an awareness of the danger of Islam among Christians and equip them to share Jesus with Muslims. We will be glad to impart historical and factual information about Islam.

(http://www.kimo4jesus.org/)

This is on the front page of their website so they don't even think there is anything wrong with what they are saying or doing. Put plainly, this is not a Christian organisation, i.e. one that promotes Christianity. It is an anti-Islamic organisation. As such, it should not be propogating its world view in schools. Unless, as balance, the school were to invite Mullah Omar to make a similar presentation.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

David Irving's Trip to Poland III

Still at Auschwitz-Birkenau ... Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes come from Irving's website, http://www.fpp.co.uk/docs/Irving/RadDi/2007/020307.html and were retrieved on Sunday, the 20th of May 2007.

Reading Irving's diary entry, I an struck anew by the arrogance and pomposity of the man. He likes to present himself as a calm neutral observer, objecytivity personified. Everyone else is a seething rabble of confusion, deception and ignorance. Irving seems incapable of realising, even in the measured, editable form of a diary entry, how often his prejudices and nastiness bubbles through the facade he attempts to present.

I mentioned the 'Werewolf' incident in the last post I wrote on Irving. Later on he refers to the Holocaust survivor as the Russian's "tame Holocaust survivor". He reports "several columns of Israelis marching around the site, carrying blue and white flags as though they are an occupying army." Later on, at Majdanek, he desscribes how a reconstructed wooden gas chamber was damaged when a candle left by "worshippers" set it on fire. He seems to have no idea how grotesque and revealling his word choices are. Unless, of course, he is playing to a different gallery altogether.

He bemoans the fact that "The Poles and others have wrecked the document that this site could have been, by their keenness to generate money and propaganda. They have slapped a vast monument of paving slabs and memorials between Kremas II and III, concealing whatever evidence they might have revealed. They have conducted little if any archeological research, "digs", to get at the truth." This is bizarre. A man who stated "Eyewitness evidence is a problem for psychiatrists" (http://codoh.com/mediamad/uchi/uchirv2.html), disputes the meaning of orders and reports relating to the Holocaust and ignores every piece of evidence that demonstrates that mass murder was carried out in the death camps, using gas chambers as the principal means, expects us to believe that he would be convinced by any evidence that might remain unearthed at Auschwitz. What nonsense. Confronted with new evidence, he would simply deny it.

Which brings me onto a nagging question surrounding Irving's trip to Poland. While there, he is accompanied by various historians, experts and media organisations. A Russian film crew work with him at Auschwitz, and SkyTV are also there. Why are these people making the mistake of giving Irving the publicity he craves, and confirming his belief in his own importance. True, his self-importance is probably unshakeable, but he shouldn't be encouraged. By engaging with idiots, it gives their idiocy a hint of respectability and credibilty, and of course, the publicity to repeat their nonsensical views. I suppose I am doing the same sort of thing here, though.

At Belzec, Irving laments the fact that Belzec
... has been wrecked, even more comprehensively than Auschwitz, by the construction by the American Jewish Committee of a
monument
the size of four football fields -- and by a 'field of lava' ...
The lava field is quite impossible to walk across, a kind of moonscape, with a
concrete passage from the gate to the monument, a half-size imitation of a
Wailing Wall, at its far end. The monument covers all six mass graves, says
Mike.
We are expected to remember his complaint about the impossibilty of carrying out a prpoer archealogical dig, to retrieve evidence - as if more were needed. But note that Irving doesn't say this directly, because in fact, Belzec was thoroughly excavated before the monuments were constructed:
From late 1997 until early 1998, a thorough archaeological survey of the site was conducted as there was no memorial yet at the site. The survey was headed by Andrzej Kola, director of the Underwater Archaeological Department at the University of Torun, and Mieczyslaw Gora, senior curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Lodz. The team identified the railway sidings and
remains of a number of buildings. They also found 33 mass graves, the largest of
which were 210 by 60 feet. The team estimated that they had found 15,000 unburned bodies, and "The largest mass graves ... contained unburned human remains (parts and pieces of skulls with hair and skin attached). The bottom layer of the graves consisted of several inches thick of black human fat. One grave contained uncrushed human bones so closely packed that the drill could not penetrate."

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belzec#Remains_of_the_camp)

Perhaps Irving knows this, perhaps he doesn't. Perhaps he wants us to
think that the camp is unexcavated and the earth beneath the 'Sea of lava' is
crammed full of unearthed evidence. Or perhaps Irving, in his blind arrogance, thinks he'll be able to find something everyone else has missed. Or perhaps he wantsus to think it is all part of a conspiracy, the memorials strategicallyplaced to ensure that no-one an ever find the lack of evidence beneath.

Irving and his long-sufferring companion Alan move on to Sobibor. "Not an unattractive place to die" remarks Irving of the site, which might be true if you had chosen to recline on your death bed, in the sun, with your family and pets around you and a string quartet to sooth your final moments. And if, sixty odd years ago, someone hadn't built an extermination camp on the site, which would rather spoil the ambience, one would hav thought.

Irving doesn't have much to say about Sobibor, beyond describing the litter strewn about the site and noting that "Here as elsewhere, according to conformist history, the Nazis did a thorough job of erasing all trace that they had ever been here". Again, the need to add the qualification, the "according to conformist history" that gives him away. It isn't conformist history, it is history. It is an account of the past based upon evidence. If it isn't that, it isn't history. Therefore, Mr Irving's views aren't history, as they are at odds with the evidence. Absurdly, a few lines later, Irving points out that "The whole site reveals no forensic evidence of homicidal activities, to supplement the relatively strong documentary evidence which exists." Well, it wouldn't, if the Nazis had gone to great efforts to cover up the traces of thier activities here.

His companion, Alan, "says he picked up bone fragments on earlier visits, but I doubt he has the forensic knowledge to recognize such things." Why ever not? It doesn't take much "forensic knowledge" to recognise a bit of bone - or is Irving suggesting the woods of Sobibor are strewn with cunningly faked bone fragments so artfully done that they will deceive all but the trained (Irving's) eye? Anyway, the long-sufferring Alan didn't need forensic knowledge - he just needed to find the fragment and lug it off to someone else with that knowledge.

His final visit, to Majdanek, provides nothing new. Irving bemoans the reconstruction work that has been carried out, notes blue stains in the gas chambers and contemplates 'doing a Leuchter' and helping himself to a sample, but refrains. This is tha last camp he visits, leaving Poland for Austria and noting with smug satisfaction that Austrian TV cameras are waiting to film him when he arrives.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Mars to Start Using Animal Rennet in Chocolate

I suppose Mars should be applauded for being open about this:
Some of the UK's best-selling chocolate bars, such as Mars and Twix, will
no longer be suitable for vegetarians.

Also affecting brands such as Snickers and Maltesers, owner Masterfoods
said it had started to use animal product rennet to make its chocolate products.

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6653175.stm)

But the applause is very muted, to say the least. Why does mars feel it necessary to meddle with something that is working quite well thank you? As a vegetarian, chocolate is my trump card. When I go to a restaurant and can't find anything appealing on the savoury part of the menu, I can raid the sweets menu with a clear conscience.

It is a very strange decision, really. I suppose it must boil down to economoics. In the strange world we live in, it must be cheaper somehow cheaper to raise a cow, impregnate it, feed it through its pregnancy and then slaughter its calf to get the enzymes in its stomach, than to grow some goop in a petri-dish. But how can it make economic sense to alienate a significant part of your market, by making your products taboo to them?

Masterfood made a funny statement - as in funny strange, not funny ha ha - claiming that "a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate". I'm not a militant vegetarian, but what is a "less strict vegetarian"? A non-vegetarian?

Dairy products have always occupied a gray area, as we all know what the milk was intended for, and what has happened to the intended recipient. But I think even the least strict vegetarian will find the use of calf rennet in chocolate too much.

Robert Fiske: Blair's Lies and Linguistic Manipulations

Fantastic article by Fiske:

Robert Fisk: Blair's lies and linguistic manipulations

My Dad used to call people like Blair a 'twerp'. But I fear he is a vicious little man
Published: 19 May 2007

By great good fortune, I studied linguistics at Lancaster University. Indeed, I read the books of Noam Chomsky, many years before he became a good friend of mine; to be honest, when I read his work, I thought Chomsky was dead. What a pleasure, therefore, to discover that he shared my world - and my views on Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara.

But I have to admit a moment of regret this weekend. Lord Blair is going from us. His self-serving memoirs will, of course, remind us of his God-like view of himself (and, heaven spare me, we share the same publishers) but I doubt if Chomsky's "foregrounded elements" will save him. A "foregrounded element" was something unusual, a phrase placed in such a way that it warned us of a lie to come.

Take George Tenet, the CIA Ernest Borgnine lookalike who sat behind Colin Powell when the US Secretary of State was uttering all those lies about weapons of mass destruction in February of 2003. It now turns out that George is mightily upset with the White House. He didn't refer to evidence of WMD as a "slam dunk", he says - a basketball phrase which I don't need to explain. He was talking about the ability of the US government to persuade the American people to go to war based on these lies. In other words, he wasn't lying to the American president. He was only lying to the American people.

I was struck by all this last month when I came across one of Blair's lies in my local Beirut paper. Sandwiched beneath a headline which read "Saudi reforms lose momentum" - surely one of the more extraordinarily unnecessary stories in the Arab press - it quoted our dear Prime Minister as saying that he was very angry that a review committee had prevented him from deporting two Algerians home because their government represented a "different political system". The "foregrounded" element, of course, is the word "different". This is the word that contains the lie. For the reason why the committee declined to return these men to their country was not - as Blair well knew - because Algeria possesses a "different" political system but because the Algerian "system" allows it to torture to death its prisoners.

I have myself interviewed Algerian policemen and women who have become perverted by their witness of torture: one policewoman told me how she now loves horror films because they remind her of the repulsive torture she had to watch at the Chateauneuf police station in Algiers - where prisoners had water pumped into their anuses until they died. I still remember the spiteful and abusive letter that the Algerian ambassador to London wrote to The Independent, sneering at Saida Kheroui whose foot was broken under torture. She was a "terrorist", this man announced. This is the "different" political system that Blair was referring to. Ms Kheroui, by the way, never emerged from prison. She was murdered by her torturers.

Blair knows that the Algerian security forces rape women to death. He knows this. So how does he dare lie about the "different" political system which allows police officers to rape women? We Europeans now make a habit of lying about this. Take the Belgian government. It deported Bouasria Ben Othman to Algeria on 15 July 1996 on the grounds that he would not be in danger if he was returned to his country. He died in police custody at Moustaganem. A "different" political system indeed.

And now I have before me Blair's repulsive "goodbye" speech to the British people, uttered at Sedgefield. Putting the country first didn't mean "doing the right thing according to conventional wisdom" (Chomsky foregrounded element: conventional) or the "prevailing consensus: (Chomsky foregrounded element: prevailing). It meant "what you genuinely believe to be right" (Chomsky foregrounded element: genuinely). Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara wanted to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Britain's oldest ally, which he assumed to be the United States. (It is actually Portugal, but no matter.) "I did so out of belief," he told us. Foregrounded element: belief.

Am I alone in being repulsed by this? "Politics may be the art of the possible (foregrounded element: may) but, at least in life, give the impossible a go." What does this mean? Is Blair adopting sainthood as a means to an end? "Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right." Excuse me? Is that Blair's message to the families of all those dead soldiers - and to the families of all those thousands of dead Iraqis? It has been an "honour" to "serve" Britain, this man tells us. What gall.

Yes, I must acknowledge Northern Ireland. If only Blair had kept to this achievement. If only he had accepted that his role was to end 800 years of the Anglo-Irish conflict. But no. He wanted to be our Saviour - and he allowed George Bush to do such things as Oliver Cromwell would find quite normal. Torture. Murder. Rape.

My Dad used to call people like Blair a "twerp" which, I think, meant a pregnant earwig. But Blair is not a twerp. I very much fear he is a vicious little man. And I can only recall Cromwell's statement to the Rump Parliament in 1653, repeated - with such wisdom - by Leo Amery to Chamberlain in 1940: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go."

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Baudolino, by Umberto Eco

It should be a law that bad books should be small, so that those who insist, foolishly, on finishing every book they start, are not subjected to the trauma of spending weeks or months in the company of bad books. Alas, it is not so. Credo, by Melvyn Bragg, is a very poor book. It is about nine hundred pages long, and I don't think I enjoyed a single one of them. Baudolino, by Umberto Eco, is a slender five hundred pages long, but by the time I reached the end I was fuming, and wondering if I could scrape together the monies to go to Italy and through the book in Eco's face.

One reason I am so annoyed is that I had really high hopes for this novel. I thought the Name of the Rose was very good. I'm disposed to like Umberto Eco, because he's fantastically clever and not ashamed of it, and also because, as he is a semiotician, it would be easier - and hence less interesting - to dislike him.

Baudolino promised to be good. It is set int he Dark Ages, culminating with the sacking of Byzantium by the rabble of the Fourth Crusade. I like the 9so-called) Dark ages. I like tales of adventure and warfare, and this book promised this. I also like clever writers, and Eco is certainly clever.

The first chapter of Baudolino is fantastic. It is supposed to be the narrative of Baudolino, scrawled on parchemnt filched from his mentor. He has scrapped it clea of what was written on it, but imperfectly. Also, Baudolino, at this stage, is only semi-literate. So the opening chapter is confused and exhilarating, as we pick our way through the jumble of Latin fragments from the text that preceded Baudolino's, straining to catch the meaning of his erratic syntax and spelling. It is a treat. This, surely, is what clever Professors turned writers should be doing - showing us, in a playful way, what a delight the simple act of reading can be.

Unfortunately, after that fabulous opening gambit, Eco decides not to bother with the shambling prose of his peasant boy hero, and fast forwards to his dotage, where he recounts his life to Niketa, a Byzantium official recently rescued from maurading Crusaders. So out goes the teasing muddle of the opening chapter, and it is replaced by a very long, eventful tale, which is rendered lifeless by the bland and spiritless style in which it is told.

It shouldn't be like this. There are endless sieges, battles, a murder mystery, a quest, sex with fantastical creatures and parisian whores, debates about the nature of the world, faith, and enough major characters to populate a small Balkan country. But the flaw is the way in which the tale is told. It is like Eco used up all his energy in that first chapter, and after that can't be bothered trying to make the subsequent tale challenging, or even interesting. One is tempted to speculate that he dreamed up the idea for the opening chapter, then had to come up with a story to append to it.

It might seem odd to accuse the author of a five hundred page book of 'Can't be arsed-ness' but Baudolino often feels like Eco can not be bothered with his story. Scenes and events seem to bore him, so he trundles on another dramatic happening to see if that one will be more amusing. it isn't, so along comes another, and another. Soon, one realises, a lot of stuff is happening, but nothing important is occurring. The treatment of Baudolino's wife is an example. She is introduced on page 228. By page 231 she is dead. We've barely had time to learn her name, and she is out of the book. In between, she hasn't had time to develop as a character, so we don't feel much sorrow at her passing, so the references Baudolino makes to her lack emotional power.

A lot of the problems of the book lie in the style of writing. This is a serious charge to level at a semiotician. But the writing is balnd and uninteresting. Some of it is told in the first person past tense, some in the third person, but neither perspective has impact, interest or tension. Sometimes, it gets plain careless. On an epic quest, the companions confront many dangers. Here is how one of them is described:
At midnight, as the men were thinking they might get some sleep, crested serpents arrived, each with two or three heads. With their tails they swept the ground and they kept their jaws wide open, with in which three tongues darted. Their stink was perceptible at a mile's distance, and all had the impression that their eyes, which sparkled in the lunar light, spread poison, as for that matter, the basilisk does ...
There are several problems here. First of all, the passage is boring. An encounter with giant serpents at night should be terrifying to read, not bland. People should be yelling, all our senses should be used to convey the intensity of combat. Apparently, however, no-one even bothered to utter a word during the skirmish. Second, there is little description. What do the serpents smell like? Burning tyres? Sewers? Boiled cabbage? Third, Eco forgets one of the first rules of creative writing - show, don't tell. How do the companions discover the serpents are mutli-headed, multi-tongued, and possessed of a lethal gaze? The description above reads more like a cargo dispatch. DELIVERY: One dozen triple headed serpents, stinking. Fianlly, Eco presents the information in the wrong order. The first thing that the companions would have become aware of was the smell. Then perhaps the sound of things moving in the darkness. The they might see something moving in the shadows, then the realisation that they were confronting something unnatural and terrifying. Now, imagine this encounter is one of several, each recounted in the same bland style, each offerring no hope that this one will be the last. At one point, Eco indicates he has tried to use different voices in the writing:
As he [Baudolino] had been tender and pastoral in telling of Abdul's death, so now he was epic and majestic in reporting the fording of that river.
Only, there is no noticable difference in tone between different sections. The whole book, apart from the excellent first chapter, is told in the same monotonous voice, as far as this reader can judge.

The book is very long, and through out it is written in a boring style devoid of drama and interest. the characters are unappealing and the polt, though straining for epic qualities, is boring. Read (or as I intend to, re-read) The Name of the Rose, which is a much better book than this.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Tony Blair - Recalling Our One Night Stand

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he's gone at last. He had five good years and five bad years. It started with a kiss.

I voted for Tony Blair in 1997. Rather, I voted for the member of the Labour Party who was standing in the Stirling electorate where I lived. It was a duty. The sitting MP was Michael Forsyth, one of the most strident Tory voices in scotland. He had to go, and he did, in due course. I remember he made a decent resigantion speech. So did Malcolm Rifkind, a more moderate and likeable conservative, who was also ousted that night, as the Tory Party in Scotland was eradicated.

It was a bloody good night. I was one year out of university. The Tories had been in power for as long as I could remember. My elder brother says he can remember the Winter of Discontent, when Callaghan lead a doomed Labour government, but I can't. My first political memory was the Falklands war, a military caper resulting from the Thatcher government's incompetence and pig headed insistance on cutting government spending. To save the cost of a super-annuated icebreaker, they ended up paying millions, and an incalculatable cost in lives, British and Argentinian. Mysteriously, the British electorate rewarded her with a massive election victory.

My next signifigant memory was of school teachers being on strike rather a lot, which was okay with me. Point is, the Tories had been in power forever, as far as I was aware. First Thatcher, then Major, miraculously winning his second term in the 90s, and then slowly being crucified by his hoplessly divided party. It was always going to be a good night, the night that got swept away.

It was like a hallucination. It was hard to believe what was actually happen. Everyone knew Labour would win in 97, but I don't think anyone had realised this would mean the Tories would be out of power. It was hard to understand. I can still feel the strange, dizzy sensation when the BBC revealled its exit poll predicting a ridiculously large majority.

I was watching the results with Irish Pete, a good friend who I have lost contact with, sadly. We had armed ourselves with plenty of booze and cigars. The cigars were meant for when Labour's absolute majority was declared, but when we heard that Michael Portillo had been beaten by the rather wet looking Stephen Twigg, we had to smoke them early. No one had expected this - least of all Michael Portillo. His face said it all. He was cast, ratherabsurdly, as George Foreman to Twigg's Muhammed Ali. Like Foreman, he was beaten, but, like Foreman, after the pain had lessened, he set about re-inventing himself as a decent human being. This, of course, meant he could never again be a serious contender to lead the Conservative Party.

It was a bloody good night. With hindsight, I think I can pinpoint the exact moment where it became clear Blairism wasn't going to work, however. With victory secure, Tony Blair was driven to Downing Street. There was a throng outside to welcome him - apparently, shepherded there by Peter Mandelson, to make a good show for the cameras. On wonders where he got them from - most Labour supporters were either unconcious or nursing hangovers. Perhaps they were Tories. In the end, Tony gave them about as much to cheer about as the people who voted for him.

On the steps of Number 10, he paused for a few seconds with his wife, Cherie Booth. He kissed her. It was awkward and unnatural looking. Then he did it again. And that was it. I felt vaguely uncomfortable watching it, and I remember thinking, "Stop that, that's silly, just go inside the door and get on with the job." And in some strange and mysterious way, I feel all the bad things that happened under Tony's ten year reign were prefigured in that moment. The dodgy dossier, the total absence of WMD in Iraq, cash for honours, spin doctory, the evasion of any action on climate change, the failure to follow through on 'The Project' - the formation of an unstoppable force of centre-left political parties - shirking the reform of the House of Lords and Britain's electoral system. It was all there, in that moment, when he went in for the second kiss, the manufactured, for the camera, audience manipulating, did-you-get-it-the-first-time, focus group lead, Mandelson approved kiss, aimed at key voters and designed not to frighten Middle England.

It wasn't all bad after that - the first five years were generally good, the second set of five generally bad, but after that kiss it was clear it was never going to be as good as it should have been. The fact that it wasn't as bad as it might have been is something, but not much of a legacy.

Britain - Rally on Behalf of Illegal Immigrants

Rally to urge fairer deal for illegal
immigrants
· Group seeks citizenship route for 'shadow people'
· Move to legality would boost taxes, says study
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Monday
May 7, 2007
The Guardian

Faith leaders including Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops will join MPs
and trade union leaders today in calling on the government to regularise the
position of an estimated 500,000 illegal migrants living in Britain.

The Trafalgar Square rally, organised by Strangers into Citizens, marks the
launch of the first broad-based campaign to lobby for a "pathway into
citizenship" through a two-year work permit for migrants who have been in
Britain for more than four years so that they can earn a living legally and pay
taxes.

The rally is being held as MPs prepare to debate the report stage of the
new borders bill to crack down on illegal migrants and deny them access to
public services.

It follows an ORB opinion poll showing that 66% of British people
agreed that undocumented migrants who have been in Britain more than four years
should be allowed to stay and not be called illegal. Two-thirds also believe
that asylum seekers should be allowed to work while they wait for their claims
to be determined.

Austen Ivereigh, the coordinator of the Strangers into Citizens
campaign, said it wanted to highlight the plight of the "shadow people" who were
condemned, often for years, to a limbo of fear and furtiveness.

"The Home Office estimates there are around 500,000 illegal immigrants,
a combination of visa overstayers and refused asylum seekers, and admits it does
not have the resources to deport them, with current removals running at 25,000 a
year."

He said naturalisation programmes had already been introduced by Spain,
Germany and the US as part of a border enforcement strategy and were about
extending the rule of law, not undermining it.

(Continues: http://www.guardian.co.uk/immigration/story/0,,2074078,00.html)

I think this is very obviously a good idea, and it will very obviously be attacked for entirely predictable reasons.

It will be criticised because it is a) rewarding criminals, and b) will encourge more illegal migrants as Britain will be seen as soft on illegal immigrants, and c) because it may be a security risk. Neither claim stands up.

First, it isn't rewarding criminals - it is allowing those who have lived a law abiding life in all other respects to formalise their immigration status. If an illegal immigrant has worked hard and not committed any crime over a period of years, aren't they exactly the sort of immigrant we want? Take away the illegal part of the label and we'll have a model citizen.

As for being soft on illegal immigrants, I don't think it will make much difference. The number of immigrants is already high. I wonder if it can feasibly get much higher, but, even if it can, I don't think the number of illegal immigrants will increase if this measure was introduced. Look at the home countries of migrants (forgetting the Aussie and Kiwi overstayers, of course) - Afghanistan, Iraq, allsorted Africa countries torn by strife. Most of these people are motivated by fear and desperation. Learning that, if they manage to sneak into Britain, survive for five years or so in the black economy, without access to public services, and keep their noses absolutely clean, they might, MIGHT be allowed to stay on legally isn't much of a sales pitch. It isn't going to prompt a tidal wave of people straggling through the Chunnel and spilling, half aphixiated, out of lorries from Europe.

Finally, the security risk claim is obviously nonsense. These people are already here, but we have no idea who they ar, where they are and how many there are. If Islamic Terrorists wanted to infiltrate Britain and carry out atrocities, they could do it right now, probably. They certainly won't bother infiltrating, working illegally at a kebab shop for five years and then identifying themselves to the police - what would be the sense in that? If they wanted to get in legally, they could probably arrange it. If they wanted to get in illegally, they could probably arrange it. Why go for the 'third way'?

Like I said, the people who will benefit from this legislation are exactly the sort of people Britain want. Also, once their position is regularised, they will be in the tax system, contributing. On top of that, it will also mean less tax money has to be squandered on the pointless and seemingly impossible job of tracking down and deporting illegal immigrants. Resources will be concentrated on the true criminal class, instead of being wasted on a basically decent bunch of hard working people. Also, we can make it a condition that the immigrants seeking naturalisation must help the police (or whoever) with their investigations into the people traffickers who brought the illegal immigrants to Britain in the first place - meaning the real criminals will be morelikely to be punished.

Of course, this is all far to sensible to happen. Instead, it will be buried under the usual howls of "PC gone mad", wailing about "Uncontrollable immigration" and general drivel.

Final thought - when you read the term 'Illegal immigrant', what image does it conjure in your mind? A shifty Arab intent on imposing Sharia Law on Britain? A teenage Russian sex worker? The cute Aussie barmaid at your local who stayed on after her visa ran out?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

David Irving's Trip to Poland II

After Treblinka, Irving continued on to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

At Auschwitz, Irivng notices a series of watchtowers, which he suspects as having been erected post war. he points out that photographs taken of the camp during its operation, reproduced at the entrance to the camp, don't show the towers. He seems to think this is a big deal, in line with his disposition to latch on to any thing that can be read as suggesting the Holocaust is a fraud. but some thoughts occur immediately - if the towers were in fact erected after the war, they might be replacing towers that had existed but had at some point been dismantled - building materials being valuable in Germany in 1945, after all. The photographs could have been taken before the towers were constructed, or after they were dismantled. Also, why didn't he think to ask someone at the camp when the towers were built? Perhaps he did, and didn't like the answer he got, so neglected to include it. Finally, if the towers were constructed as part of some nefarious plot, why wouldn't the dishonesty of those involved not stretch to faking the photographs so they included the towers? The fact that the photographs were on display suggests there is no hoax being perpetrated. Like the Treblinka museum, the lack of guile suggests honesty. But Irving, of course, chooses to see it differently ...

Irving mentions various alleged inconsistencies that seem to suggest the Holocaust is not a historical fact. He clambers onto the ruins of a gas chamber to see if he can find the holes - the absence of which has been a recurring tool used by Holocaust deniers to imply that the site was never a gas chamber. This is remarkably arrogant on Irving's part - does he actually think he'll spot something no-one has ever seen before, on some of the most studied concrete rubble in the world? or is he just posing for another self-important photograph?

The caption beneath the photograph reads: "David Irving searches for the controversial Zyklon-B inlet holes on the roof of the morgue (Leichenkeller I) of Crematorium II at Birkenau. Van Pelt also searched, and found there were no holes." This is typical Irving. Van Pelt did indeed examine the rubble for holes, and found there were none, but observed:

"Today,these four small holes that connected the wire-mesh columns and the
chimneys cannot be observed in the ruined remains of the concrete slab.Yet
does this mean they were never there?We know that after the cessation of
the gassings in the Fall of 1944 all the gassing equipment was
removed,which implies both the wire-mesh columns and the chimneys.What
would have remained would have been the four narrow holes in the
slab.While there is not certainty in this particular matter,it would have
been logical to attach at the location where the columns had been some
formwork at the bottom of the gas chamber ceiling,and pour some concrete
in the holes,and thus restore the slab."

(http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.com/evidence/vanix.asp)

So again, Irving makes a statement that is superficially true, but disingenuous.

Irivng then asks to visit other sites, first the Red House. He attempts to discredit the guide assigned to them, implying that she is misleading them:

"The lot has been levelled and grassed over, with three or four black granite
slabs inscribed with historical texts. I ask the guide how they know this was
the location, and she says "witness accounts". I keep to myself the fact that
for decades after the war the authorities played down the Bunkers and said that
nobody knew where they were."
What Irving is trying to get at here is unclear. Poland was ruled by COmmunists after the war. Communists aren't renowned for transparency and giving out information willy-nilly. Why the big deal over the fact they chose to suppress one other tid-bit? Frankly, we can't trust Irving on this at all. Perhaps, for years after the war, the aurthorities didn't know exactly where the Red House was sited, especially if they only had 'witness accounts' to go on. This is the sort of semantic loop hole Irving likes to exploit, as if this or that minor detail is vital to proving the authenticity of the Holocaust. He always chooses to ignore vast quantities of evidence, and attaces great significance to trifles.

Irving seems unable to avoid trying to creat offense. Witness the following lines:

"We drive on to see the other Bunker, the White House, the only other
building which really interests me (and I am after all calling the shots). The
guide takes us instead to the former sauna building, and insists on steering us
round the expensively glass-floored propaganda walk, which is pure Disneyland:
walls of portrait photos, loudspeakers, automatic endless films, texts, and a
disinfection room with the sinister, big, steel autoclaves with their doors open
at each end.

"I quietly reflect that this building erected in 1943 was a state of the
art installation for disinfecting and cleansing incoming prisoners, and their
clothing, and it seems odd the Nazis should have gone to such lengths if they
intended to kill them all -- i.e., genocide.

"I ask repeatedly and irritably why the guide is showing us this building,
we did not ask for it; but of course we have asked for it by coming, and it is
her duty to piston all her victims through this propaganda Schleuse, like
running the gauntlet at school."

Note the description of the displays as "Hollywood" - a term suggestive of phoniness and anipulation. The evidence of sufferring and murder are compared to rough school-boy traditions. Visitors are "victims" - perhaps because Irving believes they are the only ones who have ever suffered in this place? Elsewhere he describes a Holocaust survivor in similar terms, comparing him to a special effect from a Hollywood werewolf film, with the same implication of falseness. He refers to the survivor throughout as a 'werewolf' - presumably, we are to understand that Irving possesses the silver bullet that will slay the creature, and the monstrous beast of the Holocaust 'industry.'

He describes how he hectors the guide, as if this is a noble undertaking. He doesn't allow her to speak, however -we only get his version of events, which is likely not to be reliable. Instead he puts words in her mouth, which might or might not be remotely like anything she said:
"Our Polish Guide remains mum. It is all very undesirable, embarrassing,
awkward, and fraught with dangers for her. She is a schoolteacher, and part-time
guide, and stands to lose both jobs if she departs from any official lines."
Viewing the ruins of the White House, he comments:

"There is a minor CSI-type problem. The bricks are clean, though broken or
crumbling, and show no visible stain of blue (see our later visit to Treblinka
in this respect, and the photos taken there). I ask again how they know this was
the White House, adding this time that for decades the Polish museum authorities
had denied knowing where it was."
The bricks are clean, most likely, because they have been exposed to the weather for decades - the site is a ruin, and no attempt has been made to preserve it. Again, Irving chooses to ignore this obvious explanation in favour of the implication that no-one was gassed there at all. Commenting on the buildings at Auschwitz 1, he remarks that "these shoddily erected buildings will not last many more years -- unpointed with cement, the mortar has washed out between each layer of bricks to the depth of an inch or more." Curiously, he doesn't make the link between the deterioration of one set of buildings which are maintained, and an exposed ruin which is neglected, totally.

He makes a habit of misrepresenting the words of others. Even handedly, he does the same to himself. In the current report, he claims "I famously said once in Canada that more women died on the back seat of Senator Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than were ever gassed in that building." The building in question is the Cremotorium of Block 11. What he actually said was "more people died on the back seat of Senator Edward Kennedy’s motor car at Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chamber at Auschwitz". (http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/ftp.py?people/i/irving.david/libel.suit//judgment-08.01)

The wording is ambivalent, I suspect Irving has been very careful to structure it to be imprecise. 'The gas chamber' could refer to a specific gas chamber, or to the gas chambers of Auschwitz in general. Irving has repeated the line several times, usually to the delight of his audience. If he is quibbling about the use of one specific room as a gas chamber, why does he make so many references to it? And why the imprecise wording - an odd trait in a man so obssessed with teasing out every possible inconsistency in material that counters his opinion, to the point of misreading, mistranlating or misrepresenting evidence.

Monday, 7 May 2007

David Irving's Trip to Poland

David Irving is not a Holocaust denier. If I say otherwise, I may get sued, because this great believer in free speech and defender of people's right to say the unsayable, doesn't like people using terms like 'Holocaust denier' to describe him. He is a man who questions with the intensity of a keen mind every part of the massive mountain of evidence relating to the Holocaust as a historical fact, and who accepts anything suggesting it might not have happened immediately, at face value. I think I'm on safe ground saying that.

Irving recenly took a trip to Poland, to visit the sites of the Holocaust or not-Holocaust. His online diary describes this visit, which he undertook in March this year. Surprisingly, it is "This is [his] first visit to the country". It seems odd that he has never visited the Polish Holocaust sites before. It seems he has experienced difficulty at the hands of bureaucrats and pen-pushers: he does find it difficult to travel, sometimes, and when he reaches a place, he sometimes finds it difficult to leave. It still seems remarkable, however, that a radical historian has never visited the sites he talks about so much. Instead, he seems to have relied upon secondhand information about the extermination camps of Poland; which is odd, as he has spent a lot of time trying to discredit the accounts of those who were there at the time.

His diary entry opens with a trip down memory lane: "Forty years on, I still recall translating Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel's description of accompanying Adolf Hitler's first drive into Poland -- the filthy hovels, the unkempt Jews, the disheveled farms and villages. I wonder how much has changed." One would assume that the 'unkempt Jews' have gone, largely. Quite where they have gone remains a mystery - Irving doesn't buy into the gnerally held idea that they were slaughtered by agents of the Nazi regime, in various ways, but frequently in gas chambers in camps built or modified for the purpose of killing large numbers of people.

He doesn't think much of the Museum at Treblinka, a site where it is estimated 780,000 people were killed. He bemoans the fact that "The museum is rather bare; it has two rooms, with placards on the walls, some original posters about the labour camp, and a few items dug up in excavations: mostly battered kitchenware, two strands of wartime barbed wire (one would have expected a lot more), but nothing of wartime significance: no bones, bullets, or bayonets, for instance." He seems to have forgotten what he wrote just a few lines before: "The Germans had meticulously deleted everything of the war years when they abandoned the site in late 1943." Again, strange that he doesn't make the link himself. And strange he doesn't make the inference that the starkness of the museum is suggestive of its authenticity. If it were a fraud, wouldn't "mankind's eternal enemies" have ensured the museum was better stocked with phoney evidence?

("Mankind's eternal enemies" is a phrase quoted by Irving from a letter he received from T.S., an admirer, complete with $20 donation. In T.S.'s own words: "I thank you ... for the contribution you have made to the struggle to wrestle the flame of truth from the hands of mankind's eternal enemies." One can only speculate who the "eternal enemies" are, and what prompted Irving to give the quotation pride of place - it is the first of several quotations from letters written by admirers.) (Source: http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/index.html Quotation displayed on this web address on 7th May 2007)

Irving tries to make something of the fact that people are cautioned agains tlighting candles on the site, as this poses a fire risk. To him, this "raises an obvious question -- to which there may be a simple answer -- about that element of the received Treblinka history which has the thousands of bodies buried hastily in 1942 being exhumed in 1943 and burned in open air pits". Curious that he seems to assume that SS thugs trying to erase evidence of mass murder, working in desperate haste, would observe the scrupulous safety procautions of 21st century curators.

Hang out the stars in Alabama!

Well done, Albanians, or whatever you are. Who ever thought The Great Fightback would start in Alabama? Seriously, well done. Nothi...